Thursday, August 26, 2004

Displaced empathy

I've just bought about 10 books in a favorite but out of the way bookstore of mine. One man in the back (Mark Crispin Miller, author of "Cruel and Unusual") was going on and on about how Bush is the evil personified and blaming what he called the "republican war machine" and their relentless attacks on Clinton. It does not even occur to him that he is doing precisely the same thing. I love partisan politics.

I board the bus home in a great mood. I don't even mind waiting for about 15 minutes for the bus to show up. One stop before mine is a bizarre stop tucked out of the main road, on a restricted bus line. Apparently the driver didn't see that people were waiting there, or maybe he could not get the bus into the lane, separated from the main road by small plastic reflective poles, the net result is that he stops the bus on the main road, about 5 meters away from the stop. The bus is now blocking the cars behind us which are passing on the right, straight through the bus line. The bus doors are opened and I see the driver is discussing with two people waiting at the stop. One, a black guy about 50 years old, is in a wheelchair, with a kid sleeping on his lap. The other one, a woman a bit younger, is standing right by him. Somehow they are not moving toward the bus. I feel sorry for them both. Stranded and incapable to board the bus, so close and yet so far for the guy in the wheelchair.
The driver is apologizing. It is not clear what he is telling them but it is clear that he is trying to solve the problem as quickly as possible. They argue for a moment without anyone in the bus knowing what's going on. Then the driver lowers the bus and extend a small ramp. Apparently the man in the wheel chair could maneuver his way toward the bus. The woman is holding the child. All is well.
As soon as the man is onboard, he starts to insult the driver loudly. "Fucking bonehead, fucking bus driver". It's disconcerting and totally uncalled for. The driver has done all what he could do to correct his initial mistake. He does not lose his calm and says "I didn't see you". More insults. Relentlessly. I am standing up as my stop is coming up. Still more insults, more fuck, more ass, more everything. My good mood is disappearing fast. "Enough insults now. We heard you already". Boy! Was that a mistake!
"What's your problem? Mind your own business! Get your sorry ass out of the bus!" the woman screams at me. The child is still sleeping in her arms. I wonder for how much longer. I smile as indeed I am getting out of this bus anyway. "Please could you be at least polite?" Another salvo of screams. The stop is here, the doors opened. People coming on-board are taken aback. "What's happening? " asks a plump woman in her 50's. She is wearing a flowery dress, violets and white design. I shrug. "Someone is having a bad day". When I am in the street, I can still hear the screams of the couple after me "Fuck you bitch! Fuck you!" I make sure they can't see which house I enter.


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